Sheldonian Theatre Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3AZ
 
 
 
The Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford was built in 1668 from a design created by Sir Christopher Wren.  He based it on the 1st century BC D-shaped Theatre of Marcellus in Rome.  It is a most unusual building with a superb painted ceiling and well worth visiting.
 
Wren’s initial problem was to find a way of constructing a permanent roof over such a large space.  The roof span was over 70 feet (21 metres) and in 17th century Oxford no timbers existed that were long enough to cross that distance.  His solution was to to use the "geometrical flat floor" grid developed twenty years before by Oxford professor John Wallis.
 
Construction involved “….creating a series of trusses which were built up from shorter sections and held in place by their own weight, with help from judiciously placed iron bolts and plates.
 
For many years the structure was the largest unsupported floor in existence.  A further amazing fact is that for nearly a century the Oxford University Press stored all its books on this unsupported floor.
 
The Painted Ceiling
The ceiling was painted by Robert Streeter, court painted to King Charles II.  It It consists of 32 oil on canvas panels depicting an allegorical story - Truth descending upon the Arts and Sciences and expelling ignorance from the University.  After recent cleaning and conservation work, the 17th century ceiling now positively glows with vitality.
 
The original purpose of the theatre was to provide an appropriate secular venue for the principal meetings and public ceremonies of the University.  Nowadays it is still used for the University’s official ceremonies such as Matriculation and Graduation, and the awarding of Honorary Degrees.
 
Music Recitals & Concerts
As well, it continues to uphold a long musical tradition as a venue for music recitals and concerts.  It has a fine organ and Georg Frideric Handel performed many times in the Sheldonian including the first performance of his third oratorio Athalia in 1733.
 
The Cupola
The building has a prominent eight-sided cupola in the centre of the roof, which is accessible via a staircase leading to the dome over the main ceiling. The cupola has large windows on all sides, providing views across central Oxford, and is open to visitors.
 
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Agoda.com here:
 
Open
Visiting hours are curtailed when the theatre is being used for University Ceremonies and Concerts.
Otherwise, March - October: Monday to Friday 10:00 – 16:30 hours; closed for lunch between 12:30 – 14:00
November – February: Closes at an hour earlier.
 
Visitor Cost
Around £2.50 per Adult, £1.50 Concession. For current costs go to  Web: Sheldonian Theatre/ Plan your visit 
 
Disabled Access
The Sheldonian.Theatre has ramped access from Broad Street via a wooden gate into the quadrangle and then in through door E into the main hall. There are two public disabled parking spaces on Broad Street. Toilet on the ground floor.
Tel:   +44 (0)1865 277 299 to discuss any needs.
 
Facilities
Toilets, small shop selling souvenirs and information.
 
What’s On & Concert Tickets
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0) 1865 277 299
 
Getting There
The Sheldonian Theatre is situated on Broad Street in Oxford's city-centre within the grounds of the Bodleian Library.
 
Many Oxford streets are now closed to traffic and parking is severely limited. Visitors are encouraged to use the Park and Ride bus services which operate between the city centre and parking areas on the outskirts at Pear Tree, Woodstock Road (north); Water Eaton (north); Seacourt, Botley Road (west); Redbridge, Abingdon Road (south); and Thornhill, London Road (east).
 
For more information go to  Web: Oxford Shire Council Park & Ride
 
Google Map - Sheldonian Theatre